New year message from John Dickie, Chief Executive
While Omicron means we start this year more like the last than we’d have hoped, we nevertheless enter 2022 in a stronger – and healthier – position than 2021, with a population largely triple-jabbed (albeit with much more to do to reach some London communities) and more medical treatments approved and available.
In 2021, at London First we focused on pushing forward the capital’s recovery:
we made the case for a large-scale marketing campaign in our report with Bain & Company, and the Let’s do London campaign that followed was successful in bringing more people into the capital;
we have been strong advocates of public transport as the backbone of the city’s recovery – which means new ways of funding the network, as we explored in work with Arup. While the short-term extensions secured for Transport for London’s funding so far have been depressingly hand-to-mouth, we continue to work with the GLA and central Government on a longer-term settlement that meets the needs of London business;
as challenges of London’s skills and labour shortages loomed large throughout the year, we published the steps needed to tackle these gaps in our Mayoral manifesto, pushed on these asks in our recovery campaign and of course via our new virtual Skills London programme. In tandem, we’ve argued that we should use the immigration system to support businesses and growth. A number of sector-specific visas are in place to support recovery and we will continue to make the case for more flexibility; and
we have worked with members, partners and allies, through the media and in meetings with London and national Government to secure the support needed for London businesses through the pandemic.
And we haven’t taken our eye off London’s longer-term competitiveness:
we launched the London Data Charter, which sets out a framework for the capital’s businesses and public sector bodies to share data;
we continued our work on housing and planning policies – in particular, looking at the role build to rent plays in getting good quality homes available for Londoners across the income scale, and continued our advocacy on the forthcoming Planning Bill, particularly over the proposed Infrastructure Levy;
we launched our I&D hub as a platform to support the sharing of best practice with — and between — our members; and
For 2022, we have big plans. This week, we will launch our Coalition for International Travel – making the case for the removal of recent restrictions as soon as is practicable and supporting the recovery which is so vital for London as an international city. And next month, we will publish work on how the net zero carbon agenda can drive London’s future competitiveness, which includes the potential for the city to become a global leader in sustainable aviation.
Later in the year, we will launch a Commission to look at how our approach to the built environment should change, post-pandemic, to support London’s competitiveness. And we also plan to head back to MIPIM in March, to host our Building London conference in person in May, to hold our London Infrastructure Summit in September and to bring back the live Skills London jobs and careers fair at ExCeL, where we’ll be launching a major new data-driven analysis on the London labour market.
Across the piece, we are very focused on the future of work and how that will change the systems London needs to remain the best city in the world to do business: everything from ubiquitous high speed digital connectivity to how we price rail travel. We are in no doubt that the fundamental forces that have driven urbanisation for millennia remain: and, as ever, they evolve. Our challenge is shaping the technological, social and environmental forces which will determine London’s competitiveness. Accordingly, we are working on our future vision for London, which we will seek your input into at our AGM in February. This will both inform plans for our rebrand in the first half of the year and our new five-year strategy, to make sure that the issues we focus on and the campaigns we lead make the biggest difference possible for you and for the capital.
So, we have a rich programme for the year ahead. As well as the initiatives above, we have detailed work-streams ranging across London’s people, place, connectivity and competitiveness, and of course our comprehensive series of events.
I look forward to working with you to support London’s recovery, renewal and future competitiveness. Once again, happy New Year. May it be a prosperous, healthy and productive one for us all.